Delta’s Misleading Cancellation Email Really, Really Annoyed Me

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Just as I was arriving home last night, I heard the iPhone in my pocket “ping” in the way it always does when a new email drops into my inbox and, upon closer inspection, it turned out to be an email from Delta letting me know that my December trip home to Los Angeles had been cancelled. Considering the state of flux that the airline schedules are currently in, the cancellation of my flight wasn’t a huge surprise so I wasn’t overly disappointed, but the wording Delta used in its email really, really annoyed me.

The Email

What follows is the exact wording from the body of the email that Delta sent. I may have redacted my confirmation code but everything else about the email is original (including all the links).


As we navigate changing landscapes, we’re continuing to monitor and adjust our network that we service. As part of these ongoing adjustments to our routes, we recently had to make the difficult decision to cancel your trip – confirmation [Redacted]

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused, but rest assured, the value of your ticket is still valid. We want to ensure you’re able to have control over your travel plans, so we have provided you with an eCredit that has already been processed and can be used at any time. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to redeem an eCredit with more details available here. You’ll be able to use your original ticket number as the eCredit number when you are ready to redeem it.

For more information on travel waivers, rebooking options, refunds, and more, please visit our Coronavirus Update Center. 

We appreciate your understanding as we continue to work through the current environment together and hope to welcome you back on another Delta flight soon.

I understand that we’re living in very difficult times for the travel industry and that we all have to be a bit more flexible with our plans as airlines try to piece together their route networks while the world still battles the pandemic, so I genuinely have no problem with the fact that Delta has felt the need to change its schedules which, in turn, has led to the cancellation of some flights in my itinerary.

What I do have a very big problem with it that the wording in the email is at best misleading and, at worst, intentionally deceptive.

The Issue

This trip is for travel between the European Union and the United States which means that my booking falls under the protection of EU Law and the rules laid down by the US Department of Transport. Because I happen to write a blog with very strong ties to air travel, I’m in the fortunate position of knowing what remedies are offered to me under EU Law and by the DoT when an airline cancels my flights, but Delta’s email does very little to address two of the most important remedies open to me.

Firstly, because Delta was the party that canceled the booking (not me, the customer), I’m entitled to a full cash refund (this protection is offered by both the DoT and the EU). There’s no offer of a refund in the email.

Secondly, because Delta was the party that canceled the booking, under European legislation I’m entitled to request that the airline finds a way to get me to my original destination in place of a refund or a credit towards future travel. Here’s the relevant wording from EC 261/2004 (.pdf link):

3.2. Right to reimbursement or re-routing

In the case of a flight cancellation by the airlines (no matter what the cause is), Article 5 obliges the operating air carrier to offer the passengers the choice among:

    1. reimbursement (refund);
    2. re-routing at the earliest opportunity, or
    3. re-routing at a later date at the passenger’s convenience.

There’s no mention of this option in Delta’s email.

The email contains three links relating to the eCredit that Delta has said it has issued, but there’s no obvious link to request a rerouting (or any mention that rerouting is an option), and the one link to “refunds” that sits within the email leads to a “cancellation and refund form” which doesn’t make it at all clear who’s entitled to a refund and under what circumstances. In fact, the wording in which the link to refunds sits (“For more information on travel waivers, rebooking options, refunds, and more, please visit our Coronavirus Update Center.), looks like a generic line sent out in all emails and isn’t obviously directly related to the main issue the email is addressing.

Most people reading this email from Delta would almost certainly be given the impression that the only option open to them is to accept the eCredit that the airline has issued and to try to make alternative arrangements if they still wish to travel. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What Makes This Worse

The booking that I had was for a truly stunning Business Class fare between Budapest and Los Angeles (it cost under $850 roundtrip) and to book the same journey now would cost almost three times as much (regardless of the airline I book with). That makes the eCredit or a refund of very little use to me if I still want to travel (which I do).

Because I know that Delta has to reroute me and because I know that rerouting options are plentiful, this isn’t something that I’m worried about, but anyone who doesn’t know the rules and who finds themselves in a similar situation will almost certainly be left with the impression that their choices are limited to these:

  • Book into a cheaper cabin
  • Come up with the extra cash to pay the increased Business Class fare
  • Forgo the trip completely.

Very few people will know that they can still fly in the cabin they originally booked and on the dates they originally booked without having to pay anything extra – that annoys me.

Bottom Line

I know the rules so none of this is going to affect me, but if I’m getting emails like this one it means that a lot of other people are getting emails like this one too. That means that there are a lot of travelers out there who have very little idea that they have considerably more options open to them than Delta’s email would probably lead them to believe.

Delta is the one major US international airline that often gets put on a pedestal by people happy to declare that it always offers great customer service, but emails like this only go to prove that, deep down, the major international carriers all the same – they’ll happily keep a customer in the dark if there’s money on the line.


  1. What a weasel move by Delta. Does the rerouting require that you be in the same class of service? It seems a bit vague on that.

  2. Would be interested in the resolution Delta and you agree. I guess they’ll need hand feeding, which will be to your benefit. (I’m assuming the alliance Delta belongs to is irrelevant in re-accommodating you.)

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